A transaction is a sequence of operations performed as a single logical unit of work. A transaction comprises a unit of work performed within a database management system against a database, and treated in a coherent and reliable way independent of other transactions. Transactions in a database environment have two main purposes:
- To provide reliable units of work that allow correct recovery from failures and keep a database consistent even in cases of system failure, when execution stops (completely or partially) and many operations upon a database remain uncompleted, with unclear status.
- To provide isolation between programs accessing a database concurrently. If this isolation is not provided, the program's outcome are possibly erroneous.
A logical unit of work must exhibit four properties, called the atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability (ACID) properties of a transaction.
All changes to data are performed as if they are a single operation. That is, all the changes are performed, or none of them are.
For example, in an application that transfers funds from one account to another, the atomicity property ensures that, if a debit is made successfully from one account, the corresponding credit is made to the other account.
Data is in a consistent state when a transaction starts and when it ends.
For example, in an application that transfers funds from one account to another, the consistency property ensures that the total value of funds in both the accounts is the same at the start and end of each transaction.
The intermediate state of a transaction is invisible to other transactions. As a result, transactions that run concurrently appear to be serialized.
For example, in an application that transfers funds from one account to another, the isolation property ensures that another transaction sees the transferred funds in one account or the other, but not in both, nor in neither.
After a transaction successfully completes, changes to data persist and are not undone, even in the event of a system failure.
For example, in an application that transfers funds from one account to another, the durability property ensures that the changes made to each account will not be reversed.